Much has been made of President Barack Obama's "fecklessness" in international affairs. He doesn't have a coherent strategy against ISIS, according to Senator Rand Paul. He won't stand up to Putin, according to Governor Chris Christie. He's golfing too much, according to Maureen Dowd. An underlying critique is that Obama has no doctrine, no conception of America's place in the world or what is to be done to protect and advance it, other than "don't do stupid stuff." To political journalists, whose worldviews are punctuated by elections, who revolve around the rise and fall of candidates, coalitions, and parties, this may make sense.
If President Wilson, when he addressed the League to Enforce Peace, at Washington (May 27, 1916), had been content to make an academic speech in favor of the processes of arbitration and mediation, we should have listened with a fatigued and languid attention. Persuasive and cultured orators have exhausted that theme in all the languages of civilization. Rousseau was more eloquent and Kant more acute. On the merits of the question Mr. Wilson said nothing new; there is nothing new to say. He made a new fact by shattering once and for all the tradition of American isolation.
Many important subjects will claim your attention during the present session, of which I shall endeavor to give, in aid of your deliberations, a just idea in this communication. I undertake this duty with diffidence, from the vast extent of the interests on which I have to treat and of their great importance to every portion of our Union.